Assessing the Wicked and their Wealth

The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), May 17

imagesProsperity, possessions, and position often “pad the nests” of the wealthy and prevent them from experiencing the struggles faced by those without such advantages. The writer of Psalm 73 finds himself struggling with envy as he compares his circumstances with those of the wicked who prosper, “But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pangs in their death” (Ps. 73:2-4a).
The wealth of the wicked seem to ensure a better life than those who are righteous without similar wealth. The wealth of the wicked:

  • Permits them to eat better than others; therefore their “strength is firm” (73:4).
  • Allows them freedom from the daily worry of simple survival, “They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like other men” (73:5).
  • Sanctions their taking advantage of others without suffering the consequences, “Therefore pride serves as their necklace; violence covers them like a garment” (73:6).
  • Grants them the resources to fulfill their wicked fantasies, “Their eyes bulge with abundance; they have more than heart could wish” (73:7).
  • Positions them over others and authorizes their abuse of others, “They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression; they speak loftily” (73:8).
  • Enables them to feel powerful and to assume power over others, “They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walks through the earth” (73:9).
  • Desensitizes them to God, “And they say, “How does God know?” (73:11).

After assessing the wicked and their wealth, the Psalmist nearly gives up in his own quest of pursuing purity, “Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence” (73:13). Only after entering the sanctuary of God does he regain perspective, “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end” (73:17). He sees the “slippery slope” of the wicked wealthy and the ruin of a life lived outside of God’s presence.

The Psalmist’s struggle to live righteously in a world where the lives of the rich and powerful appear trouble-free reveals two life lessons:

  • It is always too soon to assess a person and envy their wealth and position, “For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry” (73:27).
  • The presence of God rewards those who live upright in downturn world, “But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all Your works” (73:28).

Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Psalms 50, 73, 74):
What does Psalm 50 teach about God and His relationship with His people?
Psalm 74 may have been written after Solomon’s death and the division of Israel into two nations. If so, what does this psalm reveal about the brokenness of God’s people and the writer’s prayer for them?